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India Says It Will Integrate Disputed Region Of Kashmir With The Rest Of The Country


India is revoking the special constitutional status of Kashmir. Here's what it sounded like when that change was announced today in Parliament.


UNIDENTIFIED POLITICIAN: (Foreign language spoken).

CORNISH: Kashmir is a Himalayan territory that's split between India and Pakistan, and up until now, people who live on the Indian-administered side of Kashmir have had a degree of autonomy. That changed today.

So to explain, we go to NPR's Lauren Frayer in Mumbai. And, Lauren, let's just start with how the government took this action and why.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: The government today repealed Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. That article gave the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir special autonomy that other states don't have. Why - you've got to go back to 1947. India and Pakistan were founded. They immediately started fighting over Kashmir. Kashmiris only agreed to join India if they could have that autonomy, and that's the special status that we're talking about today. Jammu and Kashmir remains India's only Muslim-majority state.

Fast-forward 70-plus years, there's been an insurgency. India and Pakistan have fought several wars over Kashmir. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for reelection on a promise to bring the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the fold, integrated better into the rest of India. And the government said today, enough - we're putting Jammu and Kashmir directly under central government rule. Now, this is deeply unpopular with Kashmiris themselves, as well as with some of India's neighbors.

CORNISH: What do the people who live in Kashmir want?

FRAYER: It's right now really hard to know because their phones and Internet service have been cut by the government. There's been a massive troop buildup in Kashmir in recent days. Tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed there. Tourists have been evacuated. Kashmiri politicians have been put under house arrest and now arrest in police custody.

In general, there's a lot of resentment in Kashmir for the central government. Most locals want either to join Muslim Pakistan next door or get independence from them both. Indian troops have put down many, many protests in Kashmir. The troops themselves have been accused of human rights violations. So there's really not a lot of goodwill at all.

One concern that Kashmiris have now - they're losing some special property rights. Other Indians will now be able to move into the Kashmir Valley, buy property and possibly dilute the Muslim character of this state. And that may be exactly what India's ruling Hindu nationalists want.

CORNISH: Given the fallout that you've described already, what's likely to happen next?

FRAYER: Legal challenges. The way the government did this was really unconventional. Normally, to amend the constitution, you would write legislation and get a majority in Parliament to approve it. This was done by presidential decree. It happened very quickly with none of that due process. The opposition is angry, as you heard in the introduction to this story. Kashmiri politicians who might be able to file a lawsuit to the Supreme Court have been arrested.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer.

Lauren, thank you.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.